After years of travel (and now full-time travel curator), I’ve put together my ultimate collection of unique travel tips, hacks and advice to help you plan your next trip with ease.
You’ll find everything from packing advice, the best travel apps, building the best travel itinerary, in-flight comfort tips, how to get through airport security in a breeze, budgeting & saving money, in-destination advice and more.
I think these genius travel tips are pretty unique, so here’s the full list!
In this post, you’ll find:
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase I may make a small commission. I only share information about things I know, love and trust!
DIY Clothing Hack for Packing Light
Mix Febreze and wrinkle release in a travel-sized spray bottle. This method allows you travel with fewer clothes and maximize a compact wardrobe.
It also prolongs the freshness and usability of your garments, which is especially helpful in humid climates.
Packing Cubes Help Keep Things Organized & Easier to Find
Packing cubes are especially useful if you’re moving hotels every couple of days.
Make sure you get cubes with compression, and you can almost double the amount of clothing you bring.
Also, if your bag gets searched at the airport, everything stays together and it’s so much quicker to repack.
Split Your Clothing Up
If you’re traveling with a partner, split your clothes between both of your checked bags.
That way, if one of the bags goes missing, you both have clothes in the other bag.
Pack a Full Outfit in Your Carry-on
If you don’t want to split up your clothing, pack a full outfit in your carry-on.
This is one of my favorite travel tips that has saved me more than once.
In the event your bag does get lost, you’ll still have a full set of fresh clothes.
If I’m traveling to a warm destination, I always pack a swimsuit and a beach/pool outfit in my carry-on.
Even if my bag isn’t lost, sometimes you can’t check into your room for a few hours but can still use the pool/beach area while you wait.
Instead of digging through your tightly packed suitcase, you can quickly pull out your swimsuit from your carry-on and get down to the pool faster.
Hotel room floors are never as clean as they look, even the nice hotels.
I always pack a pair of thin memory foam slippers to wear in the room.
Especially helpful if the floors are cold or tile (like in Mexico, Caribbean, etc.).
Use the Rubberized Luggage Tags
Don’t use the belt buckle-style luggage tags which fail more often.
I like these rubber luggage tags that are one piece so you don’t have to worry about it breaking, and they come in bright colors for easy spotting.
Use a Quart-sized Ziploc bag for Packing Liquids in Your Carry-on
Don’t waste money on “TSA approved” liquid bags (they’re often too big).
All you need is the quart-sized Ziploc bags, which also seal water tight.
Pack Necklaces Inside Metal Straws
They’ll never get tangled.
Compeed Blister Patches
If you’re prone to blisters, didn’t get the chance to break in a new pair of shoes you’re brining, or you know you’re going to be walking a lot – get Compeed.
These blister patches will save your vacation and you’ll never travel without them again.
Use Lotion Sticks Instead of Liquid Lotions or Creams
This helps reduce your amount of liquids.
I even do this when checking a bag because there’s no risk of it spilling or exploding in your bag.
If You’re Going on a Long Trip, Get Yourself a Scrubba wash bag
You put your clothes, soap and water in the bag, and swish it around for a bit.
Then wring out your clothes and hang and dry.
Sinks aren’t always practical for washing clothes or if you’re camping or backpacking, these work great.
Use Toiletry Skins
For leak-proofing your bottles and containers, just stretch these toiletry skins overtop of the bottle. Works great for shampoo, sunscreen, micellar water, makeup, etc.
Refill Travel Toiletries Bag Before You Pack it Away
Your bag will be ready to go for your next trip. One less thing to do when you’re stressed about packing!
Read the rest of my packing guides here:
Travel Planning and Trip Research
People always ask how I plan my itineraries – here’s what I do to get started.
Use Tour Company Websites as a Starting Point
To get me started with a rough idea of what I should include in my itinerary, I always start out by browsing websites like Exoticca, Intrepid Travel, Gate 1 Travel, G Adventures, or whatever your preferred tour operator is.
I scan the itineraries for the destination I’ll be traveling to, and this gives me a really quick rundown of the top places to visit and top things to do. As well as what’s realistic for traveling between different areas.
Read the YouTube video comments
I always watch a few YouTube videos when I’m starting to plan a trip.
But make sure you read the video’s comments – they’re usually full of additional helpful tips from locals or seasoned travelers.
Join Facebook Groups
You can find a Facebook group for almost every travel destination out there. In the search bar, type in your destination and then filter by ‘Groups.’
These groups are full of people who have taken trips similar to the one you’re planning, and I always find them so helpful.
If you’re traveling to another country, use an e-sim card
I use Airalo, and all you do is purchase the sim card for what country you’re traveling to and you can purchase as much data as you want.
If you need more while you’re on your trip, you can reload more data with one click.
Finding Things to Do
Use Viator to Look for & Book Tours
Not only is this the biggest source of finding all available tours in whatever region you’re traveling to, you can use the “book now and pay later” feature.
This really helps with budgeting.
The majority of tours also offer free cancellation 24 hours before.
Use Airbnb Experiences
Often you’ll find much more local & immersive experiences.
If you’ve traveled to a destination before and are looking for more unique things to do, you’ll find them here.
One of my favorite Airbnb experiences was sandboarding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!
You can use ChatGPT to help you build an itinerary for free. Here’s a prompt to get you started:
- “Create a [duration] day itinerary for my trip to [destination]. My interests include [list of interests], and my budget is [budget]. I will be staying at [type of accommodation] in [preferred neighborhood or area]. Please consider the [season/weather] and any [additional information] that might be relevant to this trip.”
Use Thatch Guides
Thatch is where you can browse unique travel guides and services curated by travel experts around the world.
Many of the guides, maps and itineraries are free, or you can purchase custom itineraries.
Check out my Thatch profile for inspiration!
Maximize your time as it relates to geography
Group your must-visit stops and restaurants together by geographic area.
By planning ahead and mapping out your route ahead of time, you can fit more in your schedule.
The Thatch map feature is great for this!
Build in Flex Time
There is always something that is going to go wrong when you travel.
Whether its delayed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, someone gets sick, etc., it’s important to be flexible.
Leave some wiggle room each day in your itinerary in case something happens.
The best way to experience a place is through its food!
Look up 1-3 local dishes before you go so you feel prepared to order something new & delicious.
Hotel Booking Tips
Choosing a hotel to book is often the most stressful part of travel planning.
Here’s some advice to help you choose the best place to stay.
Zoom in on Google Maps
Often you’ll want to stay somewhere that’s close to all the places you’ll be visiting and the attractions you want to hit.
Once I have an area narrowed down, I usually do a quick browse on Booking or Expedia to give me an idea of prices.
Then, I open up Google maps and zoom in on the neighborhood I want to stay in. This way I can see all the reviews to help me narrow things down.
Price Things Out With Uber
If I won’t be renting a car, I usually open up Uber and plug in a few of the places I’ll be traveling to, which gives me an idea of how much the rides will cost.
This helps me choose whether to spend more money and stay closer to the action, or save a ton by staying somewhere a little further out and taking Ubers.
Here are my best tips & things to do when you check into your hotel.
Check Your Hot Water
I like to make sure I have hot water and that the shower works properly as soon as I get to my room.
This way if I happen to take a late night or early morning shower and something doesn’t work, I’m not going down to the front desk at odd hours (especially if I’m on a schedule).
If you have a late flight and need to check out of your hotel by a certain time, hotels will hold your bags for you.
This also works the opposite way – if you arrive early but can’t check in. Saves you from hauling your luggage around all day.
Pack a universal sink stopper so you can wash your clothes in the sink or fill it full of ice to keep your drinks cold.
I do this in places like Las Vegas that never have mini-fridges in hotel rooms.
Read more of my essential items to pack for a hotel stay to help me feel comfortable and get a good night’s sleep.
You can save hundreds of dollars on flights just by setting cheap flight alerts with Faredrop.
It sends me notifications when flights drop in price from my home airport so it creates a lot more opportunity for budget travel!
My favorite part is the flight deals on business class flights, like this recent deal for lie-flat business class fares from Calgary to Hawaii for $618, $1200 lower than the average price of $1900.
If you have some flexibility with travel dates, the Google Flights ‘Explore’ feature shows you the cheapest airfare around the world.
If you’re eyeing up a destination, you can also set free price alerts to be notified when the price changes.
It’s also a great tool to show you the cheapest dates to travel as well as whether or not prices are currently, high, normal or low based on the flights you’re looking to book.
This website shows all non-stop flights from every airport to help you plan a long-haul trip.
FlightAware provides accurate, real-time flight tracking information.
It will typically show if your flight is canceled/delayed BEFORE your airline sends you a notification.
You can also track where your plane departs from to anticipate delays ahead of time.
Roame simplifies credit card rewards – helps you find the best redemptions for your credit card points and airline miles.
Just input your origin and destination airports and your date of travel, and the search engine will show you how many points it will cost to fly via different loyalty programs.
In the example above, it shows that you can fly first class from Las Vegas to New York City for $5.60 and 41,500 points.
Finding Cheap Business Class Flights Without Credit Card Points
While it’s very possible to fly business class solely on credit card points, not everyone wants to accumulate credit card debt or has the necessary credit score to apply for a premium credit card.
And depending on your home country, you might have limited options.
As a Canadian, I don’t get access to nearly as many travel rewards programs and credit cards as my American friends.
So, I wrote a guide on how to score cheap business class airfares like a pro, without having to churn credit card points by comparing the best flight deal tools, apps, websites and services.
Airport & Security Screening Tips
If you’re parking at the airport…
Take a photo of which section you parked your car in to easily remember where your car is after your vacation. After a long flight, you’ll be tired and just want to get home.
Security Screening Tetris Tip #1
Put your possessions through the scanner in the order you need them to come out so they can easily be re-packed.
For example, send your backpack through first, so that as your items come out you can just place them right into your bag.
Security Screening Tetris Tip #1.5
If you have a laptop or a valuable electronic, place it in the middle or second bin.
For example, I sandwich my valuables in between my personal item (first tray), and my carry-on luggage (third tray).
This keeps your valuable stuff safe from getting mixed up with other items, but it also makes it simpler when you need to pack everything back u
Luggage Cupholders are a lifesaver
If you aren’t an octopus and only have two arms, get yourself one of these luggage cupholders.
You just slip it over the handle of your suitcase and you can travel through the airport with ease when you’ve got a cup of coffee, water bottle, snacks, baby supplies, your phone, and anything else you need quick access to – now you’re hands free and not fumbling around.
Beware of Juice Hacking
DO NOT use one of the USB charging outlets at the airport.
Use a power bank to charge your phone instead.
Hackers are now using the public charging-USB ports at airports to infect your phone with malware and then steal your personal information.
Nothing worse than a long flight where you can’t elevate your feet.
I always pack my trusty foot hammock which attaches to the seat in front of you for an instant foot rest.
Just make sure you’re mindful of the person in the seat in front of you and avoid swinging your feet or moving them around too much.
Or Bring a Deflated Beach Ball
It packs flat and once you’re in the air, blow it up and now you have a foot rest.
Choose a larger size and only partially inflate it so that it’s a bit flat for more stability.
OR Use a small, folding step stool
As another way to prop your feet up on long plane rides – it feels like you’re in first class (and no risk of bothering the person in front of you).
Try this stool which folds up flat & is lightweight. Easily fits in your carry-on or backpack.
For long-haul flights, bring a spare pair of dry socks to wear once you’re settled in on your flight. Makes a world of a difference for feeling fresh.
Brushing your teeth…
is the quickest way to feel human again after a long flight.
Bring your own tea bags for the plane
Cabin air is dry and dehydrating, so bringing your own herbal tea helps so much.
You can usually get a cup of hot water for free (although I won’t be surprised if and when they start charging for that), but then you can have a nice soothing cup of mint or eucalyptus tea.
Emergency Row Exit Tip #1
Are you someone who likes to board the plane first?
Purchase an emergency exit row seat – not only do you get more leg room, but guests in these seats get priority boarding so you can be first on the plane.
Emergency Row Exit Tip #2
If you’re on a plane with two rows of exit seats, the first row of emergency exit row seats don’t recline because they could obstruct the row behind them.
So if you plan on reclining your seat a bit, go for the second row.
Middle Seat Hack
Try the middle seat hack. If you’re traveling with a partner, try booking an aisle seat and a window seat.
There’s a big chance no one will book the middle seat and you’ll get the whole row to yourselves.
Overhead Bin Tip
Put your carry on in the bin or rack across from your seat.
It’s much easier to grab at the end of the trip or to keep an eye on if you are nervous.
Best Travel Apps
Here’s a list of my favorite travel apps that are a complete game changer.
Google Maps Offline
Make sure to download your map area to use offline, then you’ll never need WiFi or cell service to access where you are.
Make sure you’ve saved things like your hotel or Airbnb, restaurants and attractions so you can get directions any time.
Another great use for Google Maps is when you’re on a bus in a foreign country where you’re not familiar with the language or if it’s loud and you can’t always understand the next stop announcement.
You can use maps to put in your destination and follow the route on your phone, so you know when to get off.
I also follow along when I’m in a taxi, so you can make sure you’re going in the right direction.
Download the language of the country you’re visiting for offline use on Google translate. Just in case you need it and don’t have a connection.
My favorite features are the conversation mode for real-time interpretation and translating text – just point your camera at a sign or a menu and your translated text is displayed overtop.
An audio tour guide app with perfectly timed stories, tips & directions that matches your location.
A must-have if you’re on a scenic road trip, or traveling through national parks.
Faredrop is one of the best flight deals apps on the market. Get notified when flights drop in price from your home airport.
My favorite part is the flight deals on business class flights, like this recent deal for lie-flat business class fares from Calgary to Hawaii for $618, $1200 lower than the average price of $1900.
Browse unique travel guides, itineraries and maps curated by travel experts around the world.
TripIt keeps all your reservations and bookings in one spot.
Keep track of your flights, hotels, car rentals, confirmation numbers, and other details – all in one place – so you don’t have to search through multiple emails or apps to find what you need.
PackPoint you organize what you need to pack in your luggage and suitcase based on length of travel, weather at your destination, and any activities planned during your trip.
The jet lag app that creates a personalized plan to minimize jet lag using the latest sleep and circadian neuroscience.
These are user generated maps to help you navigate cities like a local – indicating things you should know about certain neighborhoods.
I find it’s useful when I’m traveling somewhere that I have very little knowledge about, and want to know about safety, where the super touristy spots are, or low key spots where locals hang out.
Even if you don’t plan to use Uber, it will give you an idea about how much a typical fare costs for your route.
For example, when I’m traveling in a country where I feel more comfortable using a taxi, I check a few Uber prices before negotiating with the taxi driver about how much the fare will be.
Numbeo is the world’s largest cost of living database.
Use it to help determine how much things cost in any city such as housing, restaurants, transportation, etc.
Use Cashback Programs
Cashback programs work like a digital rebate where once you make a purchase, you get a percentage of your money back.
Popular cashback sites for travel bookings include WayAway, Rakuten and CapitalOne Shopping.
Read more details about How to Get Cashback on Flights (+ other travel saving tips)
Sign Up for Flight Alerts
Want to find flight deals with minimum effort?. Instead of searching the internet for flight deals, have someone else find deals for you.
One of the most popular flight alert programs is FareDrop, which regularly sends out deals like this one:
- $516 round trip flights from San Francisco to Tahiti, French Polynesia.
Utilize Positioning Flights
A positioning flight is a separate, cheaper flight taken to reach your main destination, typically from a nearby airport.
Taking one of these flights allows you to access more affordable airfares from larger airports (and maybe snag those flight deals on business class fares from FareDrop).
Rick Steves’ Books
Are a wealth of information, especially for European travel.
He’s got tons of advice on saving money when it comes to booking hotels, free self-guided tours & avoiding overpriced tourist traps.
Stay in One Place Longer
Traveling in between locations eats up your budget (the more you move the more you spend).
Often it’s much cheaper to stay in a central point and focus more on day trips.
Swiss Half Fare Card
If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, you can use the half fare card for all public transportation (trains, trams, buses, etc.) in Switzerland and can also be used for some attractions.
The card does exactly what the name implies, so if you’re doing a lot of train travel you can save a decent amount of money.
Saving on Car Rentals
If you’re renting a car – check to see if there’s a rental agency that’s a short cab or Uber ride from the airport. These places are usually significantly cheaper and have shorter wait times.
Open a Wise Account
If you haven’t yet, open up a Wise account.
The Wise card is a prepaid debit card attached to your Wise multi-currency account – you can load up multiple currencies and pay local like a local when you’re abroad.
Save money on international travel by changing your money into a different currency without paying a lot of extra fees and getting better exchange rates.
Embrace Shoulder Season
To save money and travel at an affordable price, find out the off season of your planned destination and travel then. You also get the added bonus of fewer crowds.
Become a House Sitter
Save money on accommodation by house-sitting and pet-sitting for locals while they’re away on vacation.
Trusted Housesitters is one of the best platforms to start house sitting.
Stay Somewhere With Kitchen Amenities
Even if you book a hotel room or an Airbnb with a small kitchen that’s a little more expensive, you can save a ton of money by cooking your own meals.
Often when we travel, we make our own breakfast and lunch, and only go out for dinner.
Go Where the Locals Eat
If you’re visiting a popular tourist city, do a little research beforehand to find out where the locals eat.
These restaurants will be a little outside of the main tourist spots, but 9 times out of 10, the food quality is much better and prices are a lot lower.
Multi-attraction passes can save you tons
If you know you’re going to be hitting several main tourist attractions in the city you’re visiting, it can be worthwhile to purchase discounted access passes to multiple attractions.
GoCity is one of the best and is currently available in over 30 cities around the world. You often save up to 50% vs buying individual attraction tickets.
Before Trip Departure
Do you get anxious or a little nervous leaving for a trip? Here are a few tips that help me feel better about being away from home:
Get a Wyze Camera
Get an inexpensive camera that you can install either inside or on the exterior of your home.
You can check up on your place from wherever you are in the world for peace of mind.
Do a weird dance…
when you lock the door so you’ll never forget that you locked it!
For real, do a shake, throw your hands up, whatever you have to do.
(works for other things too, like turning off the stove, etc.)
Confirm With Your Hotel
Email the hotel in advance of travel just indicating you’re double-checking your reservations.
If there are any issues when you arrive, you now have someone you’ve corresponded with at the hotel.
In Destination Tips
Once you’ve arrived at your destination and you’re officially starting your trip, here are my top pieces of advice to help you enjoy and navigate things smoothly.
The best way to get foreign currency (cash) is by withdrawing from an ATM on arrival (just avoid the ones at the airport). There will still be a fee, but it’s usually much better than the banks back home or currency exchange offices.
You can also use your Wise debit card for this, or if you’re from the United States, you can sign up for a Charles Schwab account, which gives you a rebate on foreign ATM fees at the end of each month.
Walking Tours & Food Walking Tours are Your Friend
As one of my favorite travel tips, I always recommend joining a free walking tour or food walking tour.
Make sure to do it early on in your trip.
These are the best ways to get acquainted with the city.
Having a local guide take you to some local food joints is a great way to not only become familiar with the local cuisine, but can help you step out of your comfort zone.
Food vs. Views
When choosing a restaurant, remember that if the view is great, the food doesn’t have to be.
Finding a Bathroom
If you need a bathroom, find a hotel, and walk in confidently like you’re a guest.
Bathrooms are usually located on the main floor somewhere near the elevators, at the beginning of a hallway or beside meeting rooms.
If you have an early flight where you’re arriving in a city in the morning, take one of the hop on hop off city tours.
They start early and are a great way to spend a couple hours getting a lay of the land and familiar with the main parts of the city.
Always try the local food!
It’s often the best and the cheapest. Not sure where to go?
Look for places that have lineups – that also means food will be fresh.
Take Photos of Landmarks
When traveling in unfamiliar places or a busy city that you’ve never been to, use your phone to take pictures of landmarks that stand out.
That way if you want to get back to a certain place you have a picture on your phone to match with your map pin.
This is helpful when you’re getting an Uber or a taxi to drop you off in a certain pickup area – or if you parked your car somewhere.
Works great if you’re traveling around a downtown area and you want to meet back at a certain spot.
Ask for a Sunroof
If you’re renting a car and taking a scenic road trip, try to get a car with a sunroof – you’ll be able to see so much more of the scenery.
Learn Basic Phrases in the Local Language
Before your trip, try to learn a few key words and phrases in the local language and practice them at home.
Look up basic greetings, please and thank you, and how to ask where the bathroom is located.
Learn the local tipping customs to show appreciation without inadvertently causing offense.